Formosan Termites Vs Drywood Termites: How To Differentiate

There are three main types of termites found in America: Formosan, drywood, and dampwood termites. In this article, we will look at the difference between the first two type of termites.

When you are buying new furniture or remodeling old ones, your worst nightmare can be a termite infestation.

What can be worse than insects eating away your favorite piece of furniture?

But did you know that there are different types of termites that can infest your house? You should know how to get rid of these insects before they can do too much damage.

Let us talk about two types of termites – the Formosan termites and Drywood termites, their differences, and how you can deal with them.

Source: Formosan Termite: TeechippyCC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons, Drywood Termites: CSIROCC BY 3.0, via Wikimedia Commons

What Do They Look Like?

Formosan termites look like ants. Their alates (the winged versions that spread their colonies) grow up to 0.5-0.6 inches in length.

These termites are brownish or tan in color, but the alates come in darker shades. Their bodies are densely covered with small hairs. Their heads are oval-shaped.

Drywood termites have rectangular heads. These are smaller in size than Formosans, with an orange head and dark brown abdomen and wings longer than their body.

What Do They Feed On?

Noting the food sources of termites can be a good way to indicate the kind of infestation you are dealing with.

For Formosan termites, the main food source is cellulose, which they obtain from springwood (a softer and more porous variety of woods).

They are also known to feed on non-cellulose substances like plastic, asphalt, and soft metal substances.

Drywood termites, on the other hand, are known for their tendency to target both drywood and springwood.

Their infestations can be noticed in any kind of wooden substance around the house or in the garden.

Formosan Termites Vs Drywood Termites: How To Differentiate


Formosan termite colonies are quite large. They often look like rocks on the ground, and can be as huge as two feet in diameter.

There can be around a million termites in their colony. These termites travel around the nests in mud tubes.

In fact, these nests are fascinating to look up close, looking like a megacity with a network of roads connecting the whole structure.

A drywood termite colony is inside the wooden structure that they have infested. They do not need any kind of contact with soil and travel within the wood that they are eating away.

Drywood colonies are smaller and since they are inside the wood, they are impossible to detect directly. Their indicators include frass and termite wings near small holes inside wood.

Swarm Pattern

Swarming is the practice of reproductive termites growing wings in order to look for new nest colonies.

Formosan termites have a swarming season in late spring to summer.

Huge swarms of winged termites can be seen traveling from one place to another, usually after a humid or rainy day. This is the time when they are looking for nesting areas and food sources.

Drywood termites are creatures that swarm at any time of the year.

They do not have a particular season when they are traveling in groups and infesting wood.

Formosan Termites Vs Drywood Termites: How To Differentiate


As mentioned earlier, Formosan termite colonies are quite huge. They may contain millions of termites in one go. Therefore, obviously, the level of destruction they can create is massive.

Drywood termites have colonies that have thousands of termites, so while they are destructive, the scale of destruction is nowhere near.

Frequently Asked Questions

What kind of termites are the worst?

The worst kind of termite infestation in the US has been reported as Formosan termite infestations.
They can cause major infestations due to the size of their colonies, which can cause major destruction in wooden structures inside and outside homes, often damaging things beyond repair.

What is the difference between Formosan and subterranean termites?

Formosan termites can be identified by their longer bodies, as compared to shorter subterranean termites.
The Formosan termites have oval-shaped heads and are brown or tan in color, while subterranean termites are often greyish and have angular heads.

How do you stop Formosan termites?

One of the most effective ways to avoid Formosan termites is to seal faucets and divert water from home areas.
Firewood should be stored away from home in a safe space of around 20 feet. All of these are great places for these termites to hide, so keep them away from your home.

What are signs of drywood termite infestation?

The most common signs of drywood termites are wooden pellets near small holes in dry wood structures like furniture and window frames. These pellets are nothing but the fecal matter of the termites.
The wood that is suspected to be infested by termites will seem hollow from the inside. They can be noticed as white ants that make clicking sounds.

Wrap Up

Before attempting to remove a termite infestation, it is important to understand which kind of termite species you are dealing with.

Formosan termites are very different from drywood termites and can create a lot of damage because of the huge size of their colonies.

We hope this article has been able to give you some pointers on how to differentiate between the two.

Thank you for reading.


  • Bugman

    Bugman aka Daniel Marlos has been identifying bugs since 1999. is his passion project and it has helped millions of readers identify the bug that has been bugging them for over two decades. You can reach out to him through our Contact Page.

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  • Piyushi Dhir

    Piyushi is a nature lover, blogger and traveler at heart. She lives in beautiful Canada with her family. Piyushi is an animal lover and loves to write about all creatures.

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